Forty-four percent of students said they were harassed “in person” — being subjected to unwelcome comments or jokes, inappropriate touching or sexual intimidation — and 30 percent reported online harassment, like receiving unwelcome comments, jokes or pictures through texts, e-mail, Facebook and other tools, or having sexual rumors, information or pictures spread about them.I'm guessing that the difference between 44% and 100% is the measure of unwelcomeness. The question included mere comments and jokes. Wouldn't nearly all middle school kids hear such things? The definition does not seem to be limited to comments and jokes that target the individual who answers yes or that persist after the individual has voiced her lack of receptiveness.
“I was called a whore because I have many friends that are boys,” one ninth-grade girl was quoted as saying. An eighth-grade boy, meanwhile, reported, “They spread rumors I was gay because I played on the basketball team.”These are the comments selected for quoting, so presumably much of the reported harassment is less compelling than that. And yet this sounds like run-of-the-mill teasing. It's not very nice, but isn't it normal childish? I think it's a little funny that both those quotes include points of pride. The girl has a lot of boyfriends. The boy is on the basketball team. It sounds like their "harassers" are jealous and they know it.
The report documents many forms of harassment. The most common was unwelcome sexual comments, gestures or jokes, which was experienced by 46 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys. Separately, 13 percent of girls reported being touched in an unwelcome way, compared with 3 percent of boys; 3.5 percent of girls said they were forced to do something sexual, as did 0.2 percent of boys. About 18 percent of both boys and girls reported being called gay or lesbian in a negative way.It's important to break down the subcategories of harassment. The touching and, obviously, the forcing are important, but even that information needs to be more fine-grained. You might object to someone touching you on the shoulder. You might feel forced by social norms to hug people you don't particularly want to hug. What counts as "something sexual"? I'm not suggesting bad things don't happen, just looking critically at survey questions that inflate the numbers by grouping things together that don't belong together if we're deciding how outraged we're going to be and what steps we ought to take to intervene.
As for being called gay, that is a special problem. It's not just that it has a sexual aspect, but that it involves perpetuating hostility toward a particular group and it also attacks a central part of a young person's identity (whether the individual is actually gay or not). But, again, let's be careful. Out of 100 instances of a kid getting called "gay," how many are the casual, meaningless proliferation of a bad word and how many truly channel hatefulness?
What is the point of this survey? To get adults exciting about solving a big problem? If so, I want a much more accurate count of genuinely problematic instances.